The supermarket chain Publix, which has over 1,300 stores across the south, is facing a federal lawsuit by nearly 60 hourly department and assistant department managers. They say that they were required to handle work-related tasks outside of their work hours without being paid overtime.
The lawsuit, which was filed here in Florida, represents mid-level managers in a variety of departments throughout stores in Florida, Georgia and Tennessee. The suit alleges that the plaintiffs “were not only compelled to complete various tasks in the stores before clocking in and after clocking out, but also that they were expected to answer texts from colleagues both after-hours and during unpaid lunch breaks.” They’re seeking back pay for the overtime hours they worked.
Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), workers who are paid on an hourly basis are required to be paid at the overtime rate of “time and a half” for any hours worked over 40 hours per week or eight hours in a day. Some salaried employees are also considered “nonexempt” and must be paid overtime, according to the FLSA.
A spokesperson for Publix responded to the lawsuit by saying, “As an associate-owned company, we are proud to provide our associates with a comprehensive benefits package – including company ownership – in addition to paying our associates in accordance with the law,” adding that Publix “take[s] these claims seriously and will respond appropriately.”
Easy contact makes constant work demands more likely
In recent years, work and home merged for many people. Further, now that employees at all levels can easily be reached by phone, text or email at any time, they’re often expected to deal with work demands while they’re not working. Many salaried employees – particularly those in higher-level positions, come to expect that this is part of the job.
For hourly employees, however, it’s different – or should be. As the legal team for the plaintiffs noted, “It’s unacceptable to force hourly workers to work outside of their shifts and to not pay workers for their time.”
If you’re an hourly employee who is regularly expected to handle work responsibilities when you’re “off-the-clock,” it’s important to remind your manager of your pay status. If the problem continues and you can’t resolve it in the workplace or face retaliation for asserting your rights, it can help to get legal guidance.